Vikings Roll Out Red Carpet

The Vikings have been mysterious about their intentions in free agency -- keeping the media effectively in the dark about who their interest is in. With 30 college players slated to visit Winter Park in the next week or so, that mystery seems to be carrying over.

The Vikings of Red McCombs vintage were known to be what some would call frugal and others would call downright cheap. When it came to cutting costs, nobody was better, and that tight grip on the purse strings extended to bringing in draft-eligible players to Winter Park.

In most years, the Vikings didn't bring in any players and, when they did (like bringing in DT Jimmy Kennedy the year they drafted Kevin Williams), it was merely a smokescreen.

That has obviously changed with the arrival of Zygi Wilf and Brad Childress. The Vikings are going to entertain as many as 30 college players prior to the draft. That process was in full swing yesterday when the team brought in Vanderbilt QB Jay Cutler, Memphis RB DeAngelo Williams and Tennessee defensive back Jason Allen -- all of whom are likely to be drafted somewhere in the first round.

So what is the Vikings' angle? It's obvious that they have just one pick in the first round and a pair in the second. They aren't, for example, going to be able to get both Cutler and Williams. But they're bringing them both in to get an up-close-and-personal look. In many respects, the players' attitudes may be just as important as their measurables and on-field workouts. The Vikings are stressing character as much as playing ability with many of their recent signings and there's no reason to believe that they wouldn't put that same standard to the players they're drafting to be the building blocks of the team's future -- now and into the next decade.

While the glut of players coming in may be something of a surprise to Vikings fans who have become accustomed to seeing no college players visit and draftees claim they had no idea the Vikings were even interested in them. Those days, it would seem, are over. The Vikings are willing to spend to get to know these players and, as they build a new team in a new vision, they do so knowing that their excuses will be minimized if a pick goes sour.

Somewhere among those 30 players figures to be the Vikings' first-round draft pick (unless, of course, they don't have injury or character concerns with the player they really want). It's all part of the predraft dance. The job for the Sherlock Holmes in fans is figuring out which one. Many believe it might be one of the three that was visiting the team Tuesday.

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